1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
For a while, I had lost sight of hope.
I felt disappointed, disillusioned, and alone.
I had lost friends, been let down by people, and my weaknesses and shortcomings seemed to be growing by the day.
When I first read through Romans 5:1-5, it seemed like there was a process to regain hope. From verse 3 on, it seemed like the order of progression was Tribulation > Perseverance > Character > Hope. If I could only follow these steps, I'd reach the "hope that does not disappoint". The only problem was that I was stuck on step one, unable to push through to the other side. The "hope that does not disappoint" could have been the holy grail for all I knew; I had no way of reaching it.
I must have been blind, because as you've probably noticed, verse 3 is not the beginning of the progression.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that hope was actually at the very beginning of the progression. That's when I began to learn that hope is actually a cycle that reinforces itself.
The Circle of Hope:
Hope* > Tribulation > Perseverance > Character > Hope
"God, I want this hope that does not disappoint," I prayed, and that's when He revealed what all my idols have done to me throughout all these years. They have stolen my hope, convinced me to invest myself in them. And as my hope faded in all other areas of life, they stood there - shiny, appealing, and completely counterfeit.
You would have thought that laying down idols would be more difficult, but the actual moment was just a few minutes of pacing and then a simple "OK." Like reading the description one more time and then clicking "buy" on Amazon. "Hope that does not disappoint" only cost me all the idols I was aware of (the fine print did also include any idols I didn't know about yet).
In the days and weeks later, I saw the Circle of Hope play itself out over and over again, reinforcing hope with hope and even more hope. I finally realized that life in Christ is an infinitely renewable source of hope - and that's one of reasons why it does not disappoint.
I don't want to give the wrong impression - my time since hopping on the Circle of Hope has been, at times, rife with intense accusation, temptations, and things that can be characterized as spiritual attacks (as we've come to expect as children of God). But every time something new comes up, I hear God say, "Let me use this. Let's feed that Circle of Hope some more."
For more information about the ministry that has nurtured my faith and hope in God, please check out Grace Christian Church at njgrace.org.